Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012
Jack and Charles Wheatley ride on a campus tour with (left to right) Laura Vailas, Dennis Ketterman, Chris Wagner, Scott Turner, Robin Colling, Kent Tingey and Joseph Han.
ISU Photographic Services/Susan Duncan
Fall 2012 Issue | By Emily Frandsen
The Wheatley family has always embodied a spirit of giving. Jack Wheatley doesn't remember it any other way.
Growing up in the small agricultural community of Robin, Idaho in Marsh Valley as the youngest of five children, he remembers that everyone felt that way. If someone needed help putting up hay, the neighbors came together. They helped each other with any needs.
"Everybody helped everyone," he says. "It was just something you did."
It is that sort of work ethic and community service Wheatley hopes to instill and support in the students who receive help through his scholarship program and other gifts to the University. The real estate developer has donated nearly $1 million to Idaho State University, including a scholarship for students from the Marsh Valley area, and funding for a long-term project for campus wide beautification, especially planting trees. He has also made generous gifts to the United States Military Academy, Stanford University and Brigham Young University.
"When we observe a need, we try to fill it," Wheatley said. "We don't need to be asked."
The funding for campus beautification includes many trees, enhanced walkways and a campus more conducive to pedestrians. He and Mary Lois, his wife of 60 years, have worked with Brigham Young University on campus beautification for 40 years, helping to plant thousands of trees. His son, Charles, is working with him to continue the tradition at Idaho State University.
"We think that beauty and excellence go together," Jack said. Mary Lois is a trained artist and has inspired Jack to put beauty in all aspects of his projects. The Wheatleys were instrumental in the creation of the Museum of Art at Brigham Young University to help students there develop the same appreciation for excellence and beauty. "The best money I every spent." Jack says, "is on the purchase of the Carl Bloch painting, Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda for BYU."
Jack says the ISU beautification project has been enjoyable in part because of the cooperative Idaho State University employees at Facilities Services, who share the vision to do more for our campus. He has also enjoyed his work with President Arthur Vailas and First Lady Dr. Laura Vailas.
"They have an unusual dedication to the University," Jack said. "It's a passion for them. It's been a pleasure working with them."
Laura Vailas has enjoyed working with the Wheatleys on many projects.
"Jack understands that a beautiful and welcoming campus environment leaves a lasting impression on those who visit, live and work at a university," she said. "The Wheatley family's vision and generosity will impact Idaho State University immediately and forever."
Jack Wheatley's affinity for Idaho State University dates back to 1941, when his family moved to Pocatello so Jack could attend high school during the war. In 1945, Jack attended Idaho State University for one year before a professor recommended him for an appointment to West Point, where he graduated in 1950. Immediately following his graduation, he served his country in the Korean War. He later worked for many years as a commercial builder and real estate developer in Palo Alto, California.
Jack and Mary Lois also have been devoted parents to their six children. "Each of us enjoy getting involved with our parents in the good causes they have endeavored to pursue, and see it as our responsibility to carry on their legacy," Charles said.
Throughout his career, Jack saw service to others as an essential part of his life. He served as city councilman and later mayor of Palo Alto. He has been a passionate supporter of several other charitable organizations including The Hoover Institution and The Tech Museum, both located in California. He and Mary Lois served two missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Investing in education has always been important to the family.
"He's been blessed," Charles said. "The more he has given, the more he seems to have the capacity to give, so it makes him want to do more. He's found much joy as he has been able to help students and others fulfill their dreams."
Jack says he enjoys reading the letters and cards written by those who he has helped. He hopes to give them a sense of the importance of hard work— of the landscaping projects at Idaho State University, 75 percent of the labor will be done by students. Jack wants them to see the benefits of working on a project and seeing the end result.
"It's fun to be a part of something like that," he said.
Vice President for Advancement Kent Tingey says he is grateful for the Wheatley family's generosity.
"The Wheatley family and their extraordinary kindness has been an outstanding addition to this University. They constantly think of and consider ways to help students and others associated with Idaho State University, either through scholarships for our students or making the campus a more beautiful venue and more conducive to teaching, learning, scholarship and recreational activity. Their contributions and personal touch will forever impact Idaho State University."